Solitary travel or not, I continue to learn to try new things, even in a city I know well. At the moment I am sitting at the Element, a restaurant on Rose Street in New Town, enjoying my second day of eggs Benedict of the trip. But this learning has nothing to do with the eggs; I know all about them! Rather, it is this: do not to judge a restaurant by its exterior.
The outside was not much, but I was hungry and decided to step inside, and to my surprise, into an inviting pub and restaurant. In the back room were folks enjoying coffee with breakfast, or as was the case since it was near noon, enjoying wine or beer with their fish and chips.
Edinburgh seems to be filled with these kinds of eating spots. The same menu all day and welcoming us to pull our a computer, whereas ‘in the old days’ it would be a book.
Less than 24 hours ago I was sitting in my sunny backyard before heading to the airport and on my way to Edinburgh. Now I find myself warming up out of the rain in the reference room of the National Scottish Library. My suitcase is waiting for me at the hotel for a 3PM check-in. I’ve wandered across Waverly Bridge, enjoyed Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, and now I am here in this silent place.
I could be annoyed that it is cold and rainy and that I couldn’t check into my room, but I’m not. Would I be more content if it were sunny? I don’t think so. With a certain equanimity I’ve come to accept whatever presents itself during my solitary travel. I‘ve come to expect the unknown as part of the known.
From my hotel window: the Scot Monument, Princes Street, and the Royal Mile in the distance.
Not much silence, solitude or simplicity in my life these days, but the reward will come a week from tomorrow when I fly to Edinburgh for a week wandering Old Town and New Town and the Princes Garden in between.
Life is always full of joys and sadnesses: the joy of two grandchildren graduating form high school and on their way to college in the fall: the sadness of the passing of two dear friends in their nineties.
Today I am very grateful for this beautiful day.
I am sitting with my 96 year old friend. It is quiet here; she is not speaking and neither am I. We are together in a deep holy place, each in our own solitude. Everything is simple; the only thing to do is be. The window flowers offer hope.
Those of us who long for silence, solitude, and simplicity can always find meaning in our lives. Just accompany someone who also longs for the same thing.
The other evening at the library I heard a delightful talk by Seth Kugel, the New York Times’s “Frugal Traveler” from 2010 to 2016 , and author of the recently published Rediscovering Travel: A Guide for the Globally Curious.
Seth writes as he talks, telling engaging stories, offering useful tips, and blurting out an array of valuable insights that whirl around in his hyperactive mind. Whatever our age, and however and wherever we travel, he suggests that we go off the well-beaten track and try something new.
Like me, Seth usually travels solo. Although I am a somewhat adventuress traveler, which of course one has to be when traveling alone, I’m inspired anew to wander off the tourist’s physical and psychological trampled-down path and rediscover the new and curious of Edinburgh (June 12-20). I’m ready and very grateful to be going.
I’ve had my computer back for three days. Lending it was not as disruptive as I had anticipated. The programs my husband downloaded didn’t mess things up very much, which reminded me that the first and best remedy for a computer problems is: ‘Shut Down’ and ‘Restart’. In all fairness, that little computer-lending experience remains in the simplicity department.
Silence and solitude often walk in tandem, as they did yesterday with the Red Sox win at Fenway Park. We went with our son and daughter-in-law, and what could be better than that? NO silence or solitude. And yet, I could attend the game all by myself and had a wonderful time. Even to consider such a thing shows how content I am alone.
In fact, I have plans to spend seven nights in Edinburgh June 12-20. Traveling alone? Of course.
My husband’s computer crashed. He’s ordered a new one which should arrive at the house tomorrow. Meanwhile, he has borrowed mine for the work day. I understand that he really needs it, but handing it over is a challenge—all the stuff he’s had to put on, the pop-ups, the computer heating up, no access for me during the day.
How we handle any of life’s situations is up to us. My first response was that indeed Jim needs my computer. That altruistic thought, however, was immediately followed by, “I really want MY computer.” I must admit that he order in which those two valid thoughts came to me, pleased me.
Letting go is one of life’s major challenges. I have friends in their 90s who have had to let go of their driver’s license, and now are letting go of life. A friend is struggling to let go of his job. Another is letting go of the hope of being a mother. Clearly, it should be easy for me to let go of my computer for a couple of days!
Yesterday I attended the Spring Concert at my church, Memorial Congregational Church, just up the street from where I live. Obviously, music is not silent, nor performed in solitude, and certainly not simple. And yet, as I sat in the sanctuary I felt those three longing being fulfilled. Silence, solitude and simplicity are a states of being, not a states of doing.
Our choir was joined by singers from the community. They were exquisite, allowing me to close my eyes and sit in that very silence, solitude, and simplicity that I long for. Clearly, silence is not lack of sound; solitude is not being alone; simplicity is not without complexity.
I’m still reading, but not with the fevered pitch of a few years ago. I’m up to 23 books on my 2019 Goodreads Challenge, just 57 to read my birthday goal of 80. I’ll get there, and if I don’t, who cares? I don’t, Goodreads doesn’t, and certain you don’t!
At the moment I have four books going:
• The Overstory, by Richard Powers (502 pages of deep reading)
• Power and Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior, by Stephen R. Hawkins (reading slowly, chapter by chapter)
• The Book of Dreams, by Nina George (good read at the end of the day)
• Kushner, Inc.: Greed, Ambition, Corruption, by Vicky Ward (the news speaks for itself).
Some books (the last two) I can ready while watching Boston sports teams. Tonight the Sox, Bruins, and Celtics are all paying at the same time, so flipping the channels may slow down my reading. ‘Mute’ will be my setting of choice, which is my little way of staying in solitude.
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